There is a common misconception that therapists are lie detectors. Even in grad school, many of us feared not being able to tell when a client is lying, and not knowing how to handle it when they did. We learned a saying: If they bring the lie, you work the lie. Meaning: If the lie is how you want to spend your time, I will follow you down that rabbit hole. It is your time being wasted if that’s what you choose to bring.
Therapists are not specifically trained to distinguish when an eye twitch means lying and when it is allergies, but one thing that we are good at is remembering what you tell us. You get an hour of undivided attention, and it is in my best interest to remember what you tell me so that I can utilize all pertinent information. That means that there are times when stories don’t add up, and my red flag censor is alerted. Depending on what point we are at in therapy, I may ignore it, or I might express my confusion. I’m human too, and I want to be sure that I am remembering correctly, and not making assumptions.
To be fair, overt lies in therapy are rare. None of my clients are forced to see me, and due to the fact that they come of their own volition, I make the assumption that there would be no benefit to them lying to me. It is more likely that I encounter the lie by omission. These make sense to me. I am not in the business of forcing people to do anything, and I believe when people choose not to be truthful with me, it is because they are not ready to be truthful with themselves. When this is the case, I rely on time to do the work for me. Lies become exhausting, and truth will always find its way.
Photo from A Thought and a Half Blog
In what I hope has been the long awaited return of my posts, I want to share some of my thoughts on moods. Moods are so subjective and nuanced, and without proper verbiage can be nearly impossible to convey. We even create new words to cover the complexity that exists in the realm of moods. Hangry is a personal favorite. I’m not just hungry, or just angry. I probably also have some annoyance about the delay of satiation. Hangry encompasses that overlap in such a perfect conjoint way. At this point I will admit that I have not yet seen the new Pixar film (bad therapist!), but I have been told it does a great job of navigating this in a fun and understandable way…more on that when I see the film!
What compelled me to write about moods today is a continual observation of parents. Most adults have a pretty good grasp on identifying their emotions. They can distinguish between happy, sad, tired, angry, overly stimulated. They let others know, “I’m having a bad day. I need a break.” They are competent communicators in this way. So where are they falling down on the job? Their expectation of their children to not have varying moods.
Thinking back to my childhood, I can remember feeling like I just needed time to myself and a day to do nothing. But being a small person and (like most kids are) at the whim of my parents, it was not always likely that the day’s activities aligned with my current mood. I was much more introverted then, and I needed time and space to refuel. When I did not get that time (due to school, extracurricular activities, social obligations, siblings who also had all of the above), it would often lead to a full on meltdown. I know for myself there was no external cue that signified buildup to this break, it would just happen one day. This led to my being labeled as “moody” and “emotional.” Now to be fair both of those are true, but that’s because I HAVE moods and I HAVE emotions!! Are we not all moody and emotional? Yes, but as adults we are more likely to caretake to these emotions (Hence, walking into work and proclaiming, “I’m having a bad day, I need a break.”)
So how can parents alleviate the stress of seeing their child go into full meltdown mode?
- Label their emotions for them: “You seem tired today.” “Do you feel upset with mom?” “You must be angry at your brother.” Kids learn language from us, and unless we give them a label, they may not even understand the feeling that is happening within them. Having a word for it reduces their internal anxiety.
- Create an opportunity for space: Not all children are social. That may be difficult for social parents to work around, but expecting your child to be the same as you is going to be difficult in more ways than this, so do yourself a favor and plan for breaks on your calendar.
- Learn who your child is as a separate person: It is easy to make the “mini me” assumption, but believe it or not, that little human is a completely unique being in his own right. Ask questions and discover that awesome personality, don’t make assumptions based on a few shared traits.
- Embrace the moods: We all have them. We are subject to external factors all the time, and none of us are going to live in a bubble. Anticipate that there will be reactions, and worry less that your child’s meltdown is a reflection of parenting. It isn’t.
Photo obtained from flickr.com Creative Commons
As you may have read in the about me section of this blog, one of my goals is to offer advice in a “Dear Jacqueline,” format. If you’ve had any questions that you didn’t want to ask friends and family about, or weren’t satisfied with the feedback you got, feel free to send it to me!
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